30,000 Dawei Villagers Forced Out by June

By Nyein Nyein 7 November 2012

The forced relocation of more than 30,000 villagers by southern Burma’s Dawei deep-sea port project will take place before June next year, says Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Support Team Chairman Tin Maung Swe.

A total of 16 villages in Yaybyu and Longlon townships in Dawei Province of Tanintharyi Division will be moved to three new locations, he told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Tin Maung Swe explained that “two new villages are under construction and some will start moving before the next academic year,” which begins in June.

The new residential zones are being built in accordance with the development of a “town plan” and the villagers will be moved after electricity, water supplies and telecommunication are in place, he said.

“We will complete a total of 500 new homes in Bawar Village, which is the new place where five villages from the Nabulae area of Yaybyu Township will first be relocated this month,” said Tin Maung Swe. “So far we have completed building 343 houses.”

Another 10 villages in Yaybyu Township will be moved near the Industrial Zone in Pugawzun Village and the remaining settlement of Nyungpinseik, in Longlon Township, will be moved to nearby Bantaninn Village.

The Dawei project started in 2010 with the first steps—road construction, site preparation, an industrial zone for small and medium enterprises, a 33 megawatt gas-fueled power plant and new towns for displaced locals—set to be completed before 2014, despite concerns of some foreign investors regarding the slow pace of progress.

Site preparation has just begun for the Ministry of Industry’s palm plantation area in Pagawzun Village where the light industrial zone will be based, said Tin Maung Swe. He added that local residents will be helped to reestablish their livelihoods near their new homes and will be provided with agricultural materials for small plantations as well as new houses.

But Dawei residents told The Irrawaddy that they worry about losing their jobs as farmers. Local people currently grow rubber, cashew and palm and their plantations will be destroyed by the project.

“We have already lost some plantations due to road construction,” said a monk at Thabyayzun Village. “Some people also have not accepted compensation as it is too low.”

But Tin Maung Swe disagrees. “Some people just did not accept the standard compensation as they want more,” he said, adding that their money is waiting in the bank and will be paid as soon as villagers agree to standard terms.

Meanwhile, Burmese Vice-President Nyun Htun discussed the establishment of the Burma-Thailand Joint Committee for the Comprehensive Development in the Dawei SEZ and its related projects during a bilateral meeting in Bangkok on Wednesday.

The committee will oversee the entire project, which is led by Italian-Thai Development Company. Earlier reports that President Thein Sein would attend the meeting proved to be inaccurate.